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Will Uber help kickstart Oakland's tech renaissance, or will it kill what makes the city special?
On Wednesday Uber, the highest valued company in the world, announced that it is coming to Oakland!
The company is buying the Sears building, for a total of 330,000 square feet of space. The Sears building can house 3,000 employees, and this move would allow Uber to possibly become Oakland's largest employer that isn’t a government agency or medical center.
This is obviously a big deal for Oakland, a city that has been seeing something of an emerging tech ecosystem in recent years.
But is this actually a good thing for the city and the people who live there? Will Uber's presence help the ecosystem flourish, or will it be the beginning of Oakland becoming like the rest of the Bay Area: overpriced and essentially uninhabitable for the average worker?
Who better to ask than those who live and work there already, and have deep ties to the city of Oakland. The reaction to the news was overall pretty positive, though there was some trepidation for what it may mean going forward.
Bart Myers, founder and CEO of Countable:"Uber's move to Oakland is huge for Oakland and, in my opinion, long overdue. I'm frankly surprised that more large tech companies haven't made the move. It's a smart move. Oakland offers so much - lower cost, easy access to SF via BART, less congestion and access to many of the same amenities."
Mitch Kapor, founder of the Kapor Center for Social Impact : "As early investors in Uber, we are pleased to welcome them to Oakland, and happy that their new office is just two blocks away from our own.
Uber’s decision reflects how Oakland's tech scene is becoming more dynamic than ever. We moved here 3 years ago to tap into the diverse talent pool of this community, and I’m confident that Uber will benefit from the unique energy of Oakland.
We’ve had a long relationship with the company, and Freada was recently invited to lead a hidden bias talk with their employees and executives. This move is a tremendous opportunity for Oakland and also for the larger goal of bringing new ideas, experiences and perspectives into tech. We look forward to working with Uber."
Aaron Wadler, co-founder and CEO of ShopPad: "Oakland is a wonderful city with a beautiful and diverse population. The city and her citizens deserve to participate in the boom and prosperity of the greater region. I am excited to see a large employer choose to invest in downtown Oakland; creating jobs and opportunities for the community."
Brennen Byrne, co-founder and CEO of Clef: "Working in Oakland, we've known that bigger companies would eventually notice this amazing city, even if we didn't know which company would come first. Uber is going to bring new opportunities to the city and a lot of challenges — I hope they join folks already working to make Oakland tech more inclusive so that their impact is as positive as possible."
Ian Ross, founder and CEO of OppSites: "As I'm sure most would agree, this is quite a significant milestone in recognition of the great strides the city has made to revitalize Downtown. One of the greatest lessons to be gleaned from this purchase, and as evidenced in the revitalization of San Francisco's mid-market, is that companies which locate in vibrant, walkable urban areas have a competitive advantage when attempting to attract and retain talent in what is a greatly competitive environment for new employees. Uber's success is predicated on integrating private automobile trips within a share economy, thus reducing the need for automobile ownership, rental, and the associated costs and risks, yet their management clearly targeted Downtown Oakland, one of the region's most transit accessible neighborhoods - in accordance with their understanding of the life-style preferences of their current and future staff.
OppSites assists communities to unlock the value of underutilized property, especially where new development supports their goals for becoming more economically and environmentally sustainable. Of course, this investment by Uber, and the 2,000 plus employees that are expected to work in the east bay will have a great multiplier effect, increasing the value of adjacent properties, while driving demand for business services, retail and restaurants. The other likely impact is that such a move will most certainly drive demand for what is already an arguably overheated housing market.
The city should consider this milestone a great success, and with this success comes great responsibility to ensure that Downtown and adjacent neighborhoods continue to grow while protecting and enhancing the quality of life for existing and future residents."
Jonathan Cobb, founder and CEO of Cloudstead: "At this point I think any attention on the tech scene in Oakland is a good one. To have an existing, successful and well-known tech company move in can only help. I do worry somewhat about rents going up and the cost of doing business in Oakland rising, but some of that is inevitable as growth happens."
Adam Kuperman, Community Manager at BriteHub: "The move is a great step in the right direction for Downtown Oakland. The city has so much potential and this is hopefully a trigger to bring additional investment - not only to downtown and not only in the sense of attracting tech companies to office here - but for the greater city. Oakland can catalyze reinvestment by continuing to attract a diversified demographic of workers and residents. We hope the city continues to focus on reinvigorating the manufacturing industry that has a rich history in the city - more jobs for more people. The solution is to attract more than just the tech industry in order to build a stronger economy for the entire region.
Oakland has an identity that needs to be preserved. Residents that have been here for generations do not want Oakland to become an extension of Silicon Valley or SoMa. This investment is great for downtown, but it is just the beginning and it requires strategic community engagement to help Oakland thrive into the future. #townbizness"
Karen Wertman, Co-Chair of 2.Oakland, Executive Producer of Vator Splash Oakland and VP of Operations for Port Workspaces: "We believe there is nowhere else where we a tech and innovation ecosystem ccan thrive with the vibrance and authenticity as it will in our city. Oakland’s history and legacy makes us uniquely qualified to have the exactly the kind of difficult conversations and develop the creative solutions that will ensure that the largest possible number of people will benefit from rising tide of positive regard and economic improvement the city and it’s people richly deserves.
Do we care about retaining what makes Oakland ,Oakland? Passionately, 'yes.' Does a large tech tenant such as Uber bring jobs and prosperity to downtown? Most definitely, and opportunity for significant non-tech job creation and challenges to provide affordable housing and not displace residents and the very real growing pains that a city that’s returning to economic prosperity must face. But do we believe that Uber itself, or a strong and inclusive tech economy, will 'strip its soul the way that it is doing in parts of San Francisco,' a fear suggested in the article in the SF Chronicle? I don’t think so.”
Bart Garrett, Lead Pastor at Christ Church and the founder of Project Peace: “Oakland suffers from an affordable housing crisis. Displacement due to gentrification is prevalent, and sadly, has entrenched, long-term roots in overtly racist public housing policies that legislated segregation. This is a very tragic and sad part of our story, and we as Oaklanders need to own it! And God bless government representatives and non-profits that are tirelessly working to ensure that affordable housing is a priority in Oakland’s future and further development. With all of that by way of caveat, I’m not sure that a business locating in a business district and/or retail space is going to have an immense bearing on rising rents and displacing residents. The outcomes of growing industry and new jobs might actually counter-balance any negatives—this is always the difficult and delicate tension, right?
The Bay Area loves entrepreneurs and cultural creatives and innovators. We are a start-up culture and this is inspiring! The flip side is that we are anti-institutional and anti-establishment. So, when these start-ups get too big and institutionalize, we protest and revolt: Google is violating my privacy rights! Facebook is commodifying my life! Uber is using surge prices to capitalize on calamities! Peets is now in the Cincinnati Airport for crying out loud! Let’s stick it to the man—I’m going to Philz now because there are only like 12 of them! I love it that we protest and revolt—but, perhaps, rather than protesting any and all business coming into Oakland we can level our revolt against inhumane, inequitable practices they might incorporate. Uber is guilty of its fair share and the Oakland citizenry could agitate with a not-in-my-backyard approach. We could urge Uber toward hiring Oakland residents, developing an affordable housing building, etc.”
Wes Selke, Managing Director and Founder of Better Ventures: "I think overall this is a good thing for Oakland. It should bolster our brand as a place for tech companies to locate, catalyze our tech/startup ecosystem, and be a boon to our commercial real estate market. 'The world’s most valuable startup is coming to Oakland' is an appealing tag line. We welcome this kind of development, so long as we strive to preserve all the great things we love about Oakland that make our city unique – it’s beauty, diversity, and scrappiness."
Freada Kapor Klein, founder of the Level Playing Field Institute and Partner at the Kapor Center for Social Impact: "We welcome Uber to Oakland's diverse and vibrant community. They will be based just two blocks from our own headquarters, so we look forward to working closely with them here. Uber engineers and other employees have already acted as volunteers and mentors at our Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) academies, and in programs like Brothers Code, both of which support students from underrepresented backgrounds to help them succeed and thrive in STEM.
Just imagine what a collaboration between Uber, Kapor Center, longstanding Oakland community groups, and other tech companies could build. Uber has proven it can think creatively about new models, so we'd be eager to work with them on new models for an Oakland tech ecosystem.”
Erik Moore, Managing Director of Base Ventures: "It's a phenomenally great thing. Kinda. To be sure, the net benefit to the economy is clear. But the less lazy question is (as is the case with most tech workforce) who else will benefit and at what cost? From where will the tech talent come and who will be incentivized to move to Oakland? The concern is that longtime non-tech industry residents are already feeling the housing squeeze (hella high ass rent in the West...for real bruh)?
Not unlike the Twitter example in San Francisco (Market Street/Measure E), things are complicated by decisions made regarding how monies will be allocated and for who's benefit.
Let's be clear, I am a capitalist. In fact, I am a Venture Capitalist... the best or worst kind! I like the idea of, and the prospects and promise and hope of, what this move could mean for helping to transform Oakland (which started back with Mayor Eliju Harris) even further. But I am from Richmond (Oakland's close 1st cousin) and I have certain sensibilities to my folks from the Town. I would simply ask that the people making this happen ponder the utility of offering tech workshops and coding classes to my friends who are challenged with drug addiction?
Go Uber!! And please be as wise and innovative in Oakland as you were with surge pricing."
Ezra Roizen, Partner with Ackrell Capital: "Uber’s move to Oakland is a great step along one dimension of the efforts to bring economic development to Oakland. It’s just the first of many employers to move from San Francisco, to Oakland. However, this is only one dimension of what needs to be a multi-dimensional economic development program. Simply importing large scale enterprises isn’t enough. We need an equally vibrant effort to “homegrow” businesses. Particularly business which will provide a wide range of jobs, so that all members of the Oakland community can rise with the economic tide.
I also have a challenge for Uber – to not just be “in” Oakland, but to be *part* of Oakland – to embody the creativity and diversity of this incredible city. Let’s make Uber the showcase of what a world-class, inclusive, company can be!
Welcome to Oakland folks!"
(Image source: uber.com)
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Cloudstead is a private cloud platform that seamlessly integrates an unlimited number of applications, giving users massive privacy improvements compared to current cloud services such as Google and Dropbox. When a user launches their own cloudstead, we give them a key and throw away ours. We can't ever get in again unless the user requests it.
Cloudstead is remarkably versatile. It can run any application, written in any popular language. That means that Cloudstead’s growing platform adapts quickly to the changing needs of users across varied businesses. Currently, Cloudstead has over a dozen applications, including email, calendar, storage, surveys, collaborative documents, bug tracking, project management and more. Soon, we'll be adding an app a day.
All of these apps work together to form a cohesive system that is a joy to use, while also providing the privacy everyone should have.
Cloudstead is a private cloud that’s also uniquely affordable, offering many of the same benefits that large companies enjoy when they build expensive, complex private clouds.
Questions & Answers:
Q. Companies like Google and Dropbox provide some of the services you do, such as storage, email and tools. What's Cloudstead's proposition over those services?
A. Google Apps and/or Dropbox/Box are just a fraction of what users want and need. SMBs, need lots of other software, such as MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, GitHub, Basecamp, Hipchat, Confluence, Jira, New Relic, Airbrake.io, Mixpanel, the list goes on and on. Cloudstead not only replaces ALL of it, but does so 1) with an integrated system in which all components work together, saving your team a ton of it's most precious resource - time, and 2) much less expensively (savings of 80% or more)
So the accurate comparison is not between Cloudstead and Google/Dropbox, but rather between Cloudstead and a disjointed hodgepodge of 15+ different SaaS applications. The current cloud patchwork wasn’t designed to work together, and doesn’t.
Here is some of the pain that SMBs experience with stitched together Frankenstein SaaS - and that Cloudstead's integrated system elimiinates:
Management Headache. You have to manage users in a dozen different places. Onboarding is a pain. Offboarding is even worse -- who inherits the files and data? Does your SaaS vendor even support this? Every one is different. With Cloudstead, you manage users in one place, for all your apps. Your accounts will automatically have access to new apps that you install.
It's Expensive. Many of these services call themselves "Freemium," but really they are "Tease, then gouge”; you pass the skimpy free tier in a hurry, and then it gets really expensive. But by then, the hooks are in your company and the switching cost is high, so you're stuck overpaying. With Cloudstead, you pay one flat rate for the right size of your "cloudstead" for both computing power and storage, and then add as many accounts and apps as you like. Your Cloudstead will tell you when it's getting bogged down and it's time to upsize your Cloudstead.
Chaotic Data Management and Lack of Privacy. It’s nearly impossible to track data when it’s stored across a dozen different vendors. Worse, it’s difficult to know who has access to it. By keeping your data in your Cloudstead, you always know where it is, what is public, what is shared, and what is private.
Cloudstead’s integrated system solves all of these problems.
Q. How do you differ from services such as Xendo and Scoro?
A. Cloudstead is a much broader product than either Xendo or Scoro.
Xendo enables search across multiple third party services and websites. In contrast, Cloudstead not only provides the search, but actually provides the apps themselves AND Cloudstead powers system-wide search across all the Cloudstead applications. Xendo is essentially a feature that is provided within the much broader Cloudstead product.
Scoro provides a suite of applications. However, already, even at pre-launch, Cloudstead has many more applications than Scoro. More importantly, Cloudstead is NOT simply a suite of application, it’s an open source platform available for developer and anyone who wants to build for it. The platform is language-agnostic – enabling rapid integration of popular open-source applications. The Cloudstead build platform will be very appealing to independent cloud developers due to how easy it is to use. Because of this, we predict that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll be adding an application a day.
And even comparing "apples to apples" (noting that Cloudstead is much more than apples; it's more like the whole supermarket), Cloudstead has major advantages over Scoro, including, cost. Scoro starts at $11 per user per month. Cloudstead's much more sensible model is pay for usage –meaning the many SMBs with a lot of light users can save on operating costs.
Yet another major advantage of Cloudstead is privacy. Scoro houses users' data on servers that Scoro can access at will, Cloudstead provides a key to users that they own. Period
Q. I've read some about Cloudstead's pipeline. What are the benefits of signing up right now?
A. Get your company started Faster: Today, right out of the box, you can get a new company up and running faster than with Google Apps or any other cloud platform, public or private.
Launch now and within minutes you can start using your cloudstead with: email, calendar, file sharing, email list management, collaborative docs, blogging, online surveys, web analytics, project management, source control, issue tracking.
Stop Wasting Time: Most businesses struggle with managing dozens of Incompatible SaaS vendors. With Cloudstead, all of your accounts are in one place. Enjoy single-sign-on across all apps. Onboarding/offboarding is a cinch. And we don't lock you in, so you don't have to worry about possibly wanting to go somewhere else in the future.
Save Money: Cloudstead is a fully-integrated private cloud with a simple all-you-can-eat pricing model. (cost calculator screenshot or textual summary here)
Q. What is your initial target market?
A. Our first verticals are tech startups and software developers, because:
1) They are intensive users of SaaS;
2) They understand the advantages of a well-designed, integrated system, versus the problems inherent in a patchwork of SaaS vendors.
3) We understand their needs (source control, issue tracking, web conferencing, web analytics, etc). Our “Startup Bundle” app suite is designed exactly for them.
Q. Is there a channel strategy to get adoption? If so, who are your partners?
A. Yes. We are in talks with datacenters, co-working spaces, and other organizations that are keenly interested in white-labeling Cloudstead to offer to their customers. We are also talking with consultants ("freelance CTO's") who design and implement whole technology systems for their clients. Cloudstead is a perfect offering in this common scenario. Since Cloudstead is so easy to use and understand, it makes the consultants' jobs easier and their clients happier.
Q. How does your team divvy up responsibilities?
A. Brian and Jonathan head the technical work. Chip is a swiss army knife, primarily focused on product, customer support and marketing; he also does some tech work. Karen leads our outbound marketing and messaging. EJ handles all the business operations including legal/finance, and also has a strong hand in recruiting and fundraising.
Q. What are the use cases for Cloudstead?
A. Small-to-midsize company or tech startup is faced with three types of pain commonly associated use of multiple 3rd party cloud services.:
a) Lack of integration- multiple users or departments using on different platforms and services with varied security protocols, passwords, and storage. Information is not as secure, search is cumbersome and the "shadow IT" problem of individual users choosing whatever services they like is wasting time and creating stress for the real IT department and leadership. Cloudstead is a simple, private cloud solution for use by SMBs and startups that want and need their data and cloud software easily managed, searchable and secure.
b) Cost - lack of control over varied cloud SaaS pricing models that can spike after a certain user tier is exceeded. User-based pricing that doesn't account for light vs. heavy users and potential spikes in operating cost from 3rd party cloud vendors make for big headaches in budget. Shadow IT from non-integrated cloud services also creates budget mayhem. Cloudstead is and affordable private cloud solution for use by SMBs and startups that can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars in TOC compared to the current, multi-platofrm approach.
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